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Rough sleeping rises in London

Words: Laura Edgar
Homeless / iStock-539478350

The number of people sleeping in London increased by 13 per cent (146 people) in 2018. In the rest of England there were 220 (6 per cent) fewer people recorded as sleeping rough.

A statistical release by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) shows that there were 4,677 people sleeping rough on a single night in autumn 2018*.

This is a 74 people (2 per cent) fewer than the 4,715 recorded in 2017. However, it is 2,909 people (165 per cent) more than the 2010 total of 1,768 people.

The capital accounted for 27 per cent of the total number of people sleeping rough in England. In 2017, London accounted for 24 per cent of the total.

Of those rough sleepers, 64 per cent were UK nationals, down from 71 per cent in 2017, 22 per cent were EU nationals from outside the UK compared with 16 per cent in 2017, and 3 per cent were non-EU nationals, down from 4 per cent in 2017.

Top 10 local authorities with the highest number of people sleeping rough

(Local authority/percentage change)

  1. Westminster: 41 per cent
  2. Camden: 11 per cent
  3. Manchester: 31 per cent
  4. Birmingham: 60 per cent
  5. Bristol: -5 per cent
  6. Newham: 4 per cent
  7. Enfield: 767 per cent
  8. Hillingdon: 94 per cent
  9. City of London: 86 per cent
  10. Brighton & Hove:  -64 per cent

The percentage of women sleeping rough in the UK was the same as in 2017 at 14 per cent – 6 per cent of whom were aged 25 and under.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, attributed the increase of people sleeping rough since 2010 to spiralling rents, a faulty benefits system and a lack of social housing.

Although the charity welcomes many of measures the government has taken to improve services for rough sleepers, it said that “without fundamental action to tackle the root causes of homelessness these measures will only achieve so much”.  

“Anyone who is forced to sleep in shop doorways or on the night bus is the end result of a broken housing system. And this figure is just the tip of the iceberg: there are many more people living precariously in emergency and temporary accommodation with their families. The rises in London, Birmingham and Manchester are a particular concern.” 

Martin Tett, housing spokesperson for the Local Government Association, said councils are determined to prevent rough sleeping but it is becoming increasingly difficult because homelessness services face a funding gap of more than £100 million over 2019/2020.

“Proper resourcing of local government funding is essential if we are going to end homelessness. Councils need to keep 100 per cent of the receipts of any homes they sell to replace and reinvest in building more of the genuinely affordable homes they desperately need as well as the ability to adapt welfare reforms to prevent people from losing their home where possible.”

Rough Sleeping Statistics Autumn 2018, England can be found here on the UK Government website (pdf).

* The release provides details information recorded on a single night in autumn 2018. The record is done annually in England.

Image credit | iStock